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Gay marriage cake: First Minister Peter Robinson stirs the Bert and Ernie furore by calling it 'bonkers'

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 08/11/2014

Mayor Andrew Muir cutting a Sesame Street Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake
Mayor Andrew Muir cutting a Sesame Street Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake
Baker Colin McArthur

It's the celebration cake that has made international headlines.

Even the First Minister has described the situation as "bonkers" over the sponge at the centre of a deepening debate of religious conscience versus statutory rights between Christians and gay people.

The family business which refused to make the cake in support of gay marriage is being taken to court by the Equality Commission.

The Belfast Telegraph learnt that the commission has made good on its threat to take legal action against the Belfast bakery unless it acknowledged there had been a breach in the equality laws and offered recompense.

However, Peter Robinson said last night: "This kind of decision from the Equality Commission is bonkers. They really do need to wind their necks in. 

"In times when we are scrapping around trying to get funding for essential services for Northern Ireland, they are tossing it away."

Court papers were served on the owners of Ashers Bakery Company Ltd on Thursday - despite the public furore from Christians and faith-based groups over the news of the impending legal action.

"We just can't believe that they're serious about this, that they're going to spend money taking us to court because we didn't make a cake," Daniel McArthur of Ashers told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The general consensus is shock that the Equality Commission is pushing ahead with legal proceedings.  

"People are surprised that despite us being a small family business and making our principles clear that they are still commencing court proceedings."

The 24-year-old manages the firm with seven shops on behalf of his parents Colin and Karen McArthur, who were served with the papers lodged at the High Court.

Background

The Equality Commission is seeking compensation of £500 damages for "injuries to feelings, loss and damage" and legal costs for four alleged breaches of two statutory laws - the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 and Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998.      

The action is being taken on behalf of Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist, who had called into the Ashers bakery shop in Royal Avenue in May this year asking for a cake to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The story has attracted international headlines by picked up by major news channels such as NBC.

The cake - which was to feature Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie - was made by another bakery.

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